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Local Tourists - Super Spots so Close to Home

Before we knew we would end up settling in Northland we would often talk about the concept of 'local treasures'. The idea that no matter where you found yourself in this beautiful country, you often don't have to look very far to discover a wonderful bounty. Whether it's stunning sights, adventures to be had, fabulous food grown or created, or inspiring individuals with unique perspectives and stories to share. Previous to house hunting around Whangarei, I have to be honest and admit that I...

March 1, 2017

Local Tourists - Northland Gems for Summer Fun

It's been a while since my last blog post but time definitely flies when you're having summer fun! I sit here on another extremely warm Northland day, ice cold water at hand and doors swung open but there's barely a breath of wind. I've switched on a large newly purchased fan and the breeze it creates, while not aircon-cold is an absolute triumph! I thought we'd be in the swing of the seasons here by now, it's our third summer but this one has been unlike the others. We haven't had rain sin...

February 7, 2017

Northland's Flavour I.D. - Do We Have One?

With travel, it seems more and more we are seeking out not only the sights and experiences of a place but the unique flavour and taste of the location we discover. As fellow travelers and now hosts, we have these conversations often. On a broader scale, the questions are around what flavours do we consider as quintessentially New Zealand, do we have a 'national dish', or signature flavour? It's always quite an entertaining conversation because, and I think many Kiwi's would agree, there's not r...

November 25, 2016

Careful What You Ask For, You Might Just Get It...

I hadn't really given it much thought before, but I was talking a friend through the first few months on this property where my full-time job was painter, plasterer and general renovator. She commented that while there was no doubt it was a pretty grueling mission to embark on, I would have surely enjoyed days listening to playlists, at high volume with no one's musical taste to please but my own. Actually no, I reflected on that time and even to my own surprise I realised that it wasn't until...

September 12, 2016

#3 - Shabby Chic Guest House Celebrates Local Treasures

So to the final chapter in this short DIY renovation series, the story of how the eclectic shabby style came together in the Orchard Cottage guest house. This final part was by far the most fun of the stages, being all about the finishing touches and pulling the whole look together. Over the duration of the renovation, about four months in total I revelled in the days I had to wait for plaster or paint to dry so took to scouting through second hand shops. Little squeals of joy would escape as ...

June 13, 2016

#2 Reno Journey of a 'Shabby Chic' Guest House

Continuing from the first part in this series about the renovation journey of the Orchard Cottage, there's a theme of removing the previously busy interior look, and each day literally consisted of being covered head-to-toe in plaster dust and paint. So as well as the laborious task of stripping back the wallpaper and replacing the patterned surrounds with muted paint tones, there were the intensely dark painted window frames and ceiling trims to update. One of my best friends through this pro...

May 30, 2016

Reno Journey of a 'Shabby Chic' Guest House

I don't know if it's naivety, creative thinking or just the way my brain is wired which defaults to a kind of 'why not?' response when ideas spring to mind. I'm sure it's not that unique but the results seem to spark a sort of intrigue and surprise from others. Whether it's people quizzing wide-eyed about our move from the metro-cool of Wellington to Whangarei with no existing friend networks, no real knowledge of the area or what to expect when we got here. Or when visitors want to know the sto...

May 10, 2016

Secret Paradise Found - Just Down the Road

As a subtle chill descends on our evenings and the sun sinks beyond the impressive native bush horizon a few minutes earlier each day now, Summer shuffles softly into the distance and Autumn announces her arrival. I reflect on the first Summer of the Orchard Cottage guesthouse, and the different people we've had the pleasure of meeting. From as far away as Holland, England and Austria and as nearby as an hour drive away. While it's been a bit of a whirlwind with most nights in the height of th...

March 21, 2016

Straw Bale Garden Bounty - Give it a Go!

I remember sitting cross legged on the bed we'd constructed in the back of our white Toyota Hiace Vanette. Parked up on a free camping beach spot somewhere down south, it was the first real purchase we'd made together, with grand plans of summer roadies. Joe impressed with his skills, creating the ultimate little camper and furnished with all the essentials, 'Maisy Motel' (as she was nicknamed) was perfect for carefree adventures, taking us the length of the country. This evening, tumblers ...

March 2, 2016

In Pursuit of Fresh Local Food Pleasures

We committed to the name of our new lifestyle business well before making the move. As we worked more hours than we ever planned in Wellington, we'd steal away our Friday nights, relieved at the end of each week to wind down. Ever since Holly has been very young we've always eaten dinner together, but a tradition formed on Fridays where Holly would have something super easy, her choice, and often something that she would have a go at cooking herself. For us, it was at least two courses based a...

January 26, 2016

Does Gardening Success Confirm Graduation to Grown-up?

Many a green-fingered guru would scoff at the title of this post I'm sure. But those of us who have tiptoed around the edges of growing greatness, with much trial and error and more mortal memories than those of succulent success would agree I'm sure, that it's a journey worth some reflection. The first weekend we spent after arriving at this lush and sprawling patch we now call home, was up to our elbows and knees in foliage and vegetation. Marked with an epic couple of outdoor days, I now ...

January 4, 2016

A Local Inspired Four Course Feast with No Fuss - Sorted!

It's unavoidable, getting caught up in the chaos of this time of year. In our house, December is also birthday month. Both my daughter and I are December babies and it seems, that year on year I know more people with birthdays falling in the festive month. I think this time is a bit love / hate for me though. The crazed commercialisation of Christmas drives me mad and on principal, I abandon all natural tendencies towards good planning and will often be found doing one foul swoop of gift gathe...

December 14, 2015

Canine Capers and Furry Friendship for Life

It was part of the deal, as we persuaded our ten year old that moving miles away from her school, her best friends and all the goodness she'd come to love growing up in our small coastal Wellington town, would actually be a great idea. The promise of a puppy provided the hook we needed to paint a very tempting picture. Pretty much all her young life she's been besotted with animals and if it was left to her, she'd wake up to a menagerie everyday. So it was amidst the full swing of cottage ren...

October 4, 2015

A Citrus Celebration & Recipes for Sharing

If I was told I could only have one type of fruit for the rest of my days, there would be no question... citrus wins hands down in my book, and if I had to be specific, lemons are at the top of the heap. I simply love the flavour, scent and colour of these versatile little beauties. From early memories of wandering through my Granddad's meticulously maintained garden where there always seemed to be, amongst much plentiful goodness, deep yellow jewels en-mass hanging amongst shiny dark green le...

September 6, 2015

Simple Pleasures Through Youthful Eyes

What a different life our kids have compared to our own upbringing, how strange it seems to be at the stage of our life when more often than not now, we sound like our own parents did 'back in the day'. With cautionary messages, words of wisdom and brilliantly timeless 'dad jokes'. Our own childhood memories are filled with hours spent roaming the streets, ripping round on our bikes, exploring gullies and sometimes the odd off-limits building site. Making huts, mud pies and make believe worlds...

August 8, 2015

Winter's Light Shines on a Local Treasure

When we were on the property search around Whangarei we were pretty sure the picturesque east coast beaches would be our lure. The coastline surrounding the city is vast and diverse, with so many wonderful little bays connected by seemingly endless stretches of luminous sand met by the ocean's ever-changing rhythm. Our first experience of the popular Tutukaka Coast was at about this time last year. The three of us visited on a whirlwind tour of potential locations for our new life. With onl...

July 9, 2015

Urban Strolling - a Little City with a Big Heart

I'm not going to lie, there have definitely been a few adjustments to make since moving to the North from the 'Coolest Little Capital'. While Whangarei is not Wellington, I'm discovering this city has a great little heart of it's own. The people are undeniably friendly and the whole place is pretty relaxed. It's been through some tough times in recent years and evidence of this is apparent with plenty of city spaces empty, waiting for their next occupants. In fact I think a lot of friends and ...

June 22, 2015

A Bit of Backyard Exploring

Winter has now truly arrived, covering the landscape with a chill. Frequently smudging the skies with ominous grey clouds which grow heavy and release blankets of rain leaving squelching soil and drooping branches. Then frigid winds sweep through shaking the resolve of even the most tenacious autumn leaf until only the skeleton tree is left standing. It's our first winter here and with this we see the garden in a new, naked light. Where fluttery leaves and fruit adorned trees and shrubs and ...

June 9, 2015

This Place is Going to the Birds & We Love It!

The morning of our property search in Whangarei, we stood on the 'grassy knoll' in front of what is now the Orchard Cottage and took in the view across the vast bush valley. It was a beautiful spring morning, no wind and quiet... except that is, for the chatter of birds. Now we wake in the mornings to pastel skies and the warble of Magpies, then fall into peaceful sleep at night to the soft hoot of Moreporks. It's obvious the birds run the show here alright and we're loving it! I'm spending ...

May 29, 2015

Last of the Fig Harvest - Indulgent Fig Paste

So the last of our sweet and juicy figs have ripened and provided enough bounty to preserve for enjoying in 'figless' times. I could have made a jam or a chutney but we often fork out a bit of cash for a deliciously indulgent pot of fig paste to enjoy with cheese. Whether it's just us with our first glass of wine on a Friday night or creating a more lavish spread to enjoy with friends pre or post dinner, the small portion always gets gobbled up so quickly. ...

May 21, 2015

Incredible Gluten-free Sugar-free Granola

As Autumn truly sets in here, the leaves lose their grip and succumb to the cool breeze, I'm drawn into the kitchen. It's definitely time to indulge in slow cooking, filling the house with intense aromas of comforting herby broths and fall-off-bone meats marrying with sweet veg. I've also been experimenting with different combinations of nuts, seeds and fruit for the perfect toasted granola which is part of our Orchard Cottage provisions breakfast basket. Having tried a number of recipes I ...

May 20, 2015

Quarry Gardens - an Other-worldly Experience

Sunday just gone (Mothers Day) has to rate right up there for me, a gorgeous sunny day spent with family discovering a new and quite stunning part of Whangarei. I'd seen the sign to the Quarry Subtropical Gardens and logged it as a place to visit the next time we decided it was time for a break from gardening or renovations. Lucky for me, this occasion was Mothers Day so the excursion was preceded by a relaxed morning with coffee in bed and followed by a delicious lunch at our favourite arti...

May 12, 2015

Black Garlic - What a Revelation!

So by now any readers out there will have discovered that food is a big part of our lives... I haven't quite managed to write about any other topics so far! I'm sure I'll get there but while renovations on our cottage have monopolised my time of late, I do find myself really relishing kitchen delights. Even more so now our little kitchen has been revived - oh the excitement of actually having a pantry again, yes, it certainly is the little things! One of my favourite local discoveries since w...

May 6, 2015

More Simply 'Figtastic' Goodness

While we missed out on a lot of our summer crops from the property due to pesky possums and our fruit-loving feathered friends, autumn is providing abundance. Especially in the form of plump and delicious figs... we've never eaten so many! I feel a bottling session coming soon as the trees are now delivering daily loads which mean it's hard to keep up with fresh recipes. But before the preserving begins I felt the need to share a couple more 'figtastically' simple recipes (sorry, just couldn'...

April 28, 2015

First Fruits from our Little Orchard

When we moved here in October last year, we wandered through the young fruit trees planted around the property taking guesses at the varieties and what kinds of fruit we might be enjoying in the years to come. There are no labels on these trees, we have a list from the previous owners but there are several areas of planting so no specifics about exactly what is where. It's an exciting waiting game. The first few months over summer saw peaches, plums and some apples but crops were few and fa...

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